Despite the difficult economic circumstances during 2010 Ireland’s environment continues to be of high quality, according to the EPA’s End of Year Statement for 2010. ”The EPA has a clear focus on what it needs to achieve as the Agency charged with overseeing environmental protection in Ireland. Limiting and adapting to climate change and making an effective transition to a green economy remain priorities for the EPA and for Ireland’s citizens, communities, businesses and government,” says Dr Mary Kelly, EPA director general of the EPA. “Significant on-going investment will be required to resolve waste, water and air issues and much work remains to be done in the areas of transport, energy and agriculture to ensure that economic growth, when it returns, is sustainable.”
Explaining the importance of environmental protection, Dr Kelly adds: “It is crucial that Ireland keeps environmental protection centre-stage. Ireland’s environment is a key strategic asset for the country, which we must protect, manage and invest in to secure a healthy society and a strong, low-carbon and greener economy into the future. The transition to a genuinely low carbon and resource efficient economy has substantial benefits, not only for the environment, but also for the health and well-being of society.”
In terms of investment, the recent water shortages illustrate how fragile the country’s infrastructure can be. “We need to continue to invest in Ireland’s green infrastructure, including waste water treatment and waste management facilities, so that the basic building blocks for a clean and well-protected environment are in place and functioning properly,” she points out.
On the issue of climate change Dr Kelly comments: “Major challenges still exist in achieving real reductions in greenhouse gases which should not be underestimated. The EU 2020 target is particularly difficult for Ireland to achieve as it excludes those sectors covered by the Emissions Trading Scheme and applies to agriculture, transport, residential and other sectors, where it is much more difficult to achieve reductions. The new Climate Change Response Bill, when enacted, will provide a framework for developing a new Climate Change Strategy to achieve the required targets.”
She continues: ”Developing policies and measures which see Ireland significantly increasing energy efficiencies and its use of alternative energy sources is crucial. We need radical changes in practice in all economic sectors particularly energy, transport, and agriculture, and in our own lives. We also need a better understanding of climate change which is where research comes in.”